Populist President Sparks Unprecedented Crisis for Brazilian Science

Tensions are rising as Jair Bolsonaro’s administration questions the work of government scientists and institutes debilitating cuts to research funding

When neuroscientist Sidarta Ribeiro presented a preview of a report on the dire state of research in Brazil at a meeting of a major scientific society on 23 July, several government soldiers entered the room and began filming. Some in the audience took the soldiers’ actions as a show of intimidation.

“Maybe these guys were just soldiers who want to learn about science,” says Ribeiro, a researcher at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Natal. He coordinated the analysis on behalf of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC), which hosted the meeting and commissioned the report. But it didn’t look like they were there out of curiosity, Ribeiro says.

The incident is the latest example of the rising tensions between the country’s scientists and President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration. Since Bolsonaro took office in January, Brazil’s researchers have faced funding cuts and repeated attempts by the administration to roll back protections for the environment and Indigenous populations. Government officials blocked the release of a ministry report on drug use in Brazil. And they have questioned other work by government scientists, including most recently, deforestation reports by a national agency. The head of that agency has since been dismissed.

Veja o texto na íntegra: Scientific American